California teen’s death from fentanyl highlights the dangers of social media drug markets

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It’s been over a year since Chris and Laura Didier found their 17-year-old son Zach hunched over at his desk in his home near Sacramento, California.

Their son “appeared to be asleep, and when I approached him, I knew something was terribly wrong,” father Chris Didier told Fox News, recalling the moment he walked into his son’s room on Dec. 29. 27, 2020.

“I just felt something dark and something empty – and it haunts me,” he said.

Fearing the worst, Didier did what any father would do – tried to bring Zach back to consciousness.

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Former US militaryDidier used his CPR training to try to revive Zach while yelling at his other son, Sam, to call 911.

Medics soon arrived and began rescue work.

Zach Didier was found by his father lying on a table after he took a fake Percocet he bought via Snapchat.  The pill turned out to be a lethal dose of fentanyl.  He died at the age of 17 in December 2020.

Zach Didier was found by his father lying on a table after he took a fake Percocet he bought via Snapchat. The pill turned out to be a lethal dose of fentanyl. He died at the age of 17 in December 2020.
(Contributed by Laura and Zach Didier)

After about 10 minutes, they realized that there was nothing more they could do to help the teenager. Dad Chris Didier recalled what happened next.

“I didn’t accept it. I said, “This is unacceptable,” he said. “So, I resumed CPR and fought tooth and nail to prevent the loss. And after a while, one of the rescuers took me away from Zach.”

The startled father added, “And then it stopped.”

“I know what fentanyl is, but how does it get into my house?”

Chris Didier said coroners arrived at his home to inspect Zach’s room for several hours.

“They said, ‘Chris, this is a real mystery,'” he said. “We – obviously, if someone dies – we want to find out what happened, if there is any obvious evidence.”

Investigators told Didier that there were two versions of Zach’s cause of death: natural causes or fentanyl.

“I know what fentanyl is, but how does it get into my house?” Chris Didier asked. “My child is in my house. He is not exposed to the dangers of the world. How does he get into his room? How does it get into his body?

Shown here are bags of recently seized counterfeit fentanyl pills that were seized by the US Drug Enforcement Administration.

Shown here are bags of recently seized counterfeit fentanyl pills that were seized by the US Drug Enforcement Administration.
(DEA)

Chris and Laura soon learned that their son had bought what he thought was a Percocet pill from someone on Snapchat. Instead, he ended up with counterfeit tablets containing fentanyl.

“We’ve never heard of counterfeit pills,” Zach’s mother, Laura Didier, said.

“We never heard of Drug dealers profit from youth through social media applications. Neither we, nor our neighbors, nor our friends, nor Zach’s classmates knew about it. I mean, we were all completely stunned when we found out this was all happening.”

“Social media is a very pervasive platform. You can get whatever you want on social media at any age and I had no idea what [this] happened. “

Both she and her husband were shocked to learn that their son Zach was able to get a tainted pill on social media so easily.

“All the other parents we knew, his entire football team, all those friends – none of us had ever heard of a fake prescription pill that only had fentanyl as the active ingredient,” Chris Didier told Fox News.

“I also learned that social media is a very pervasive platform. You can get whatever you want on social media at any age and I had no idea this was happening.”

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Synthetic opioids, most notably illicitly manufactured fentanyl, have become the leading cause of overdose death in the US, especially among teenagers.

Officials are increasingly concerned that middle and high school and college-age children are being targeted as criminals manufacture fentanyl pills disguised as oxycodone, adderall and xanax.

Officials are increasingly concerned that middle and high school and college-age children are being targeted as criminals manufacture fentanyl pills disguised as oxycodone, adderall and xanax.
(Carey Kuashen)

Fentanyl-related deaths among teens aged 14 to 18 have risen sharply year on year, accounting for 77% of teen deaths in teens last year alone, according to a study published in April by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

“One-time users will most likely die from it because they have no tolerance and they have no idea what they were taking,” says the doctor. Olivia Rae Wright, a family medicine and teen addiction specialist in Vancouver, Washington, told Fox News.

Shocking report

Last November, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a shocking report that indicated that over 100,000 drug overdose deaths had occurred in the US in the 12-month period ending April 2021. This is an increase of almost 30%. from the same time a year earlier.

According to one doctor, overdoses began to rise when fentanyl was added to heroin as a filler to push out more of the product.

Three out of every four Americans who died during this period were killed by synthetic opioids, most notably fentanyl, and those numbers continue to rise, thanks in part to the number of people like the young Zach Didier who never knew what they were taking.

Dr. Wright said overdoses began to rise when fentanyl was added to heroin as a filler to push more of the product out.

“It all happened in the northeast, and the reason was that it all started with the fact that it was mixed with heroin,” she said. “Heroin on the East Coast tended to come from China as a white powder that was very easy to mix. [with] fentanyl.”

The Alameda County (California) Sheriff's Office announced on Twitter that its office and the Narcotics Task Force found 42,000 grams of illegal fentanyl in Oakland and Hayward.

The Alameda County (California) Sheriff’s Office announced on Twitter that its office and the Narcotics Task Force found 42,000 grams of illegal fentanyl in Oakland and Hayward.
(Alameda County Sheriff’s Office)

Wright added that this was not a problem on the West Coast until the last 10 years, when production of a certain type of heroin known as China White slowed down.

“China was under a lot of pressure from the US about this when it was just starting to become a problem,” she said.

“They stopped doing it so much. But what they do is send the predecessors [base chemical compounds] to Mexico and so now it’s spreading in the United States and made it to the West Coast.”

Federal security services seized 478,000 counterfeit pills, 26 of which were charged with drug trafficking and other crimes.

The addiction specialist also noted: “Once prescription opioids are no longer available, they [the drug dealers] were looking for other things to keep people hooked and found fentanyl to be a great way to do that.”

Zach's parents, Laura and Chris Didier, said they were completely unaware of how easily drugs were available on social media apps like Snapchat.

Zach’s parents, Laura and Chris Didier, said they were completely unaware of how easily drugs were available on social media apps like Snapchat.
(Laura and Chris Didier)

She continued, “It started coming into stock, mixed with other drugs, and then now on its own, and mostly in pill form.”

Trying to help others

Since Zach’s death, Laura and Chris Didier have used their experiences to educate other parents about the dangers of counterfeit pills and open social media drug markets.

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“If we were aware of this issue — if we saw a news report about it or saw a program at our school about it … we could have that specific conversation,” Laura Didier said.

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She added: “If we could also say to our beautiful, bright child, ‘If you ever see something on social media, don’t believe the hype. What they sell is not what they tell you.” “

This mom concluded by saying, “I just wish we knew this was supposed to be a conversation.”